What is Carbon?
- Carbon is the most common chemical element which has the symbol C and atomic number 6.
- Carbon is a member of group 14 on the periodic table.
- The name carbon comes from the Latin word carbo, coal.
- It is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and 4th most abundant element after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen.
When Carbon atoms are bonded together in different ways, they are called as allotropes of carbon. Some best-known allotropes are diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon. Graphite is one of the softest known substances and diamond is the hardest substance. Its physical properties may vary from the allotropic form. For Example- Graphite is opaque, and diamond is transparent. It bonds with other small atoms that include other carbon atoms and is capable of developing multiple stable covalent bonds.
- Carbon is Non-metallic
- Carbon is Tetravalent
- It has 3 naturally occurring isotopes( 12C and 13C – stable, 14C – radioactive)
- It has several allotropes and best known are graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon.
- Carbon has a high melting point and can easily combine with oxygen at elevated temperatures.
- It acts as an excellent hardener for iron and yields the various steel alloys.
- The radioactive isotope of carbon is C-14 which is used to date ancient objects of organic origin.
Importance of Carbon:
Carbon is important for all the known living systems, and life could not exist without it. Carbon is available in the form of hydrocarbons other than food and wood such as fossil fuel, methane gas, and crude oil. Carbon fibres have multiple uses since they are strong, yet lightweight, durable material. These fibres are used in making tennis rackets, fishing rods, even aeroplane, and rockets. The industrial diamonds are used for drilling and cutting rocks.
Physical and Biological role:
Carbon dioxide (CO2) a form of carbon is an essential element present in the air and in the water for sustaining life on earth. Photosynthesis by green plants takes their energy from the sun in order to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen. The living organisms who cannot photosynthesis are bounds to rely on other living organisms in order to consume their minimum requirements of carbon dioxide molecules. Thus, a balance of carbon and oxygen is necessary for the survival of almost all living organisms on this planet.
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